British citizen ordinary passport
The data page of the 2015 version of the British biometric passport
|Date first issued||1414 (first mention of 'passport' in an Act of Parliament)|
1915 (first 'modern' passport)
15 August 1988 (machine-readable passport; first EU design)
6 February 2006 (first biometric version)
7 October 2015 (second biometric version; last EU design issued to British Citizens; non-EU designed issued to other British Nationals who are not British Citizens)
30 March 2019 (second biometric version, non-EU design issued to all British National including British Citizens)
|Issued by|| United Kingdom|
--HM Passport Office
|Type of document||Passport|
|Eligibility requirements||British citizenship or any of the various other forms of British nationality|
|Expiration||10 years (16 or older) |
5 years (under 16)
|Cost||Fees for all passport applications are reduced by £9.50 if completed online|
British passports are passports issued by the United Kingdom to those holding any form of British nationality. There are different types of British nationality, and different types of British passports as a result. A British passport enables the bearer to travel worldwide and serves as proof of citizenship. Every British citizen is also a citizen of the European Union. The passport allows for freedom of movement in any of the states of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. It also facilitates access to consular assistance from British embassies around the world, or any embassy of another European Union member state until the United Kingdom departs the European Union in October 2019. Passports are issued using royal prerogative, which is exercised by Her Majesty's Government.
British citizen passports have been issued in the UK by Her Majesty's Passport Office since 2006, a division of the Home Office. British citizens can use their passport as evidence of right of abode in the United Kingdom and EU citizenship. All passports issued in the UK since 2006 have been biometric.
In 1988, the UK government changed the colour of the passport to burgundy red from dark blue, in line with most EU passports. In response to Brexit, the UK government announced in December 2017 its plan to change the passport colour back to dark blue from October 2019. New passports were issued from 30 March 2019 that removed all references to the European Union as part of the Brexit planning by the Home Office.
Owing to the many different categories in British nationality law, there are different types of passports for each class of British nationality. All categories of British passports are issued by Her Majesty's Government under royal prerogative. Since all British passports are issued in the name of the Crown, the reigning monarch does not require a passport. The following table shows the number of valid British passports on the last day of 2018 and shows the different categories eligible to hold a British passport:
|Category||Country code||Valid passports
as at 31 Dec 2018
|British citizens||GBR||50,437,362||In the UK: HM Passport Office (HMPO)
In Gibraltar: Civil Status and Registration Office (CSRO)
|British Overseas Territories Citizens of Gibraltar||GBD||2,305||CSRO||formerly British Dependent Territories Citizens|
|British Overseas Territories Citizens of other British Overseas Territories||45,171||HMPO on behalf of individual Overseas Territories|
|British Overseas citizens||GBO||12,656||HMPO|
|British subjects with right of abode in UK||GBS||33,669||HMPO|
|British subjects without right of abode in UK||829||HMPO|
|British protected persons||GBP||1,321||HMPO|
|British Nationals (Overseas)||GBN||169,653||HMPO|
(prior to April 2019)
British citizen, British overseas citizen, British subject, British protected person and British national (overseas) passports are issued by HM Passport Office in the UK. British nationals of these categories applying for passports outside the UK can apply for their passport online from HMPO. British passports were previously issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in British embassies around the world. However, in 2009, this was stopped and British citizen passports can now only be issued by the Passport Office in the UK. The FCO says: "In their 2006 report on consular services, the National Audit Office recommended limiting passport production to fewer locations to increase security and reduce expenditure."
British citizens and British Overseas Territory citizens of Gibraltar can apply for their passport in Gibraltar, where it will be issued by the Gibraltar Civil Status and Registration Office.
British citizens, British Overseas Territory citizens of Gibraltar and British subjects with right of abode are considered to be UK nationals for the purpose of EU law. They are therefore considered to be EU citizens, allowing them to move freely within the European Economic Area and Switzerland.
Other types of British nationals are not considered to be EU citizens, but may nevertheless enjoy visa-free travel to the European Union on a short-term basis.
British passports in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are issued in the name of the Lieutenant-Governor of the respective Crown Dependencies on behalf of the States of Jersey, States of Guernsey and the Government of the Isle of Man respectively. Meanwhile, in British Overseas Territories, British Overseas Territories Citizen passports are issued in the name of the respective territory's governor.
Diplomatic passports are issued in the UK by HMPO. They are issued to British diplomats and high-ranking government officials to facilitate travel abroad.
Official passports are issued to those travelling abroad on official state business.
Emergency passports are issued by British embassies across the world. Emergency passports may be issued to any person holding British nationality. Commonwealth citizens are also eligible to receive British emergency passports in countries where their country of nationality is unrepresented. Under a reciprocal agreement, British emergency passports may also be issued to EU citizens in countries where their own country does not have a diplomatic mission or is otherwise unable to assist.
Collective (also known as group passports) are issued to defined groups of 5 to 50 individuals who are British citizens under the age of 18 for travel together to the EEA and Switzerland, such as a group of school children on a school trip.
Safe conduct documents, usually notes signed by the monarch, were issued to foreigners as well as English subjects in medieval times. They were first mentioned in an Act of Parliament, the Safe Conducts Act in 1414. Between 1540 and 1685, the Privy Council issued passports, although they were still signed by the monarch until the reign of Charles II when the Secretary of State could sign them instead. The Secretary of State signed all passports in place of the monarch from 1794 onwards, at which time formal records started to be kept.
Passports were written in Latin or English until 1772, when French was used instead. From about 1855 English was used, with some sections translated into French for many years.
In 1855 passports became a standardised document issued solely to British nationals. They were a simple single-sheet paper document, and by 1914 included a photograph of the holder.
The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 was passed on the outbreak of World War I. A new format was introduced in 1915: a single sheet folded into eight with a cardboard cover. It included a description of the holder as well as a photograph, and had to be renewed after two years.
Some duplicate passports and passport records are available at the British Library; for example IOR: L/P&J/11 contain a few surviving passports of travelling ayahs for the 1930s. A passport issued on 18 June 1641 and signed by King Charles I still exists.
Various changes to the design were made over the years:
A 32-page passport with a dark cover, commonly known as the old blue style, came into use in 1920 with the formation of the Passport Service following international agreement on a standard format for passports, and remained in use until replaced by the European Union-style machine-readable passport in late 1988. As with many documents worldwide and all booklet-format documents, details were handwritten into the passport and (as of 1955) included: number, holder's name, "accompanied by his wife" and her maiden name, "and" (number) "children", national status. For both bearer and wife: profession, place and date of birth, country of residence, height, eye and hair colour, special peculiarities, signature and photograph. Names, birth dates, and sexes of children, list of countries for which valid, issue place and date, expiry date, a page for renewals and, at the back, details of the amount of foreign exchange for travel expenses (a limited amount of sterling, typically £50 but increasing with inflation, could be taken out of the country). The bearer's sex was not explicitly stated, although the name was written in with title ("Mr John Smith"). Descriptive text was printed in both English and French (a practice which still continues), e.g., "Accompanied by his wife (Maiden name)/Accompagné de sa femme (Née)". Changed details were struck out and rewritten, with a rubber-stamped note confirming the change.
If details and photograph of a man's wife and details of children were entered (this was not compulsory), the passport could be used by the bearer, wife, and children under 16, if together; separate passports were required for the wife or children to travel independently. The passport was valid for five years, renewable for another five, after which it had to be replaced.
The passport had a printed list of countries for which it was valid, which was added to manually as validity increased. A passport of 1955 was valid for the British Commonwealth, USA, and all countries in Europe "including the USSR, Turkey, Algeria, Azores, Canary Islands, Iceland, and Madeira"; during its period of validity restrictions eased and it was endorsed "and for all other foreign countries".
A new simplified type, the British Visitor's Passport, was introduced in 1961. It was a single-page cardboard document valid for one year obtainable for many years from Employment Exchanges, as agents of the Passport Office, and then from a Post Office. It was accepted for travel by most west European countries (excluding surface travel to West Berlin), but was dropped in 1995 since it did not identify the holder's nationality or meet new security standards.
On 15 August 1988, the Glasgow passport office became the first to issue burgundy-coloured machine-readable passports. They followed a common format agreed amongst member states of the European Community, and had the words 'European Community' on the cover, changed to 'European Union' in 1997. The passport has 32 pages; a 48-page version is available with more space for stamps and visas. There are two lines of machine-readable text printed in a format agreed amongst members of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and a section in which relevant terms ("surname", "date of issue", etc.) are translated into the official EU languages. Passports issued overseas did not all have a Machine Readable Zone but these was introduced gradually as appropriate equipment was made available overseas.
In 1998 the first digital image passport was introduced with photographs being replaced with images printed directly on the bio-data page which was moved from the cover to an inside page to reduce the ease of fraud. These documents were all issued with machine readable zones and had a hologram over the photograph, which was the first time that British passports had been protected by an optically variable safeguard. These documents were issued until 2006 when the biometric passport was introduced. The bio-data page is printed with a finely detailed background including a drawing of a red grouse (a native British bird), and the entire page is protected from modification by a laminate which incorporates a holographic image of the kingfisher; visa pages are numbered and printed with detailed backgrounds including drawings of other birds: a merlin, curlew, avocet, and red kite. An RFID chip and antenna are located on the obverse of the data page and hold the same visual information as is printed, including a digital copy of the photograph with biometric information for use with facial recognition systems. The Welsh and Scottish Gaelic languages were included in all British passports for the first time in 2005, and appear on the titles page replacing the official languages of the EU, although the EU languages still appear faintly as part of the background design. Welsh and Scottish Gaelic precede the official EU languages in the translations section.
There was speculation regarding re-introduction of the old-style passport following completion of Brexit but the government denied any immediate plans. Such a change was supported by some due to its symbolic value, including Brexit Secretary David Davis, while others thought the undue weight put on such a trivial change raises the question of whether the government is able to prioritise its order of business ahead of Brexit.[non-primary source needed] On 2 April 2017, Michael Fabricant MP said that security printing and banknote manufacturer De La Rue, who hold the current £400 million contract with HM Passport Office, had stated that the coat of arms would "contrast better on navy blue than it currently does on the maroon passports" as part of their pre-tender discussions with the government.The Sun newspaper launched a campaign in August 2016, and a question was put to Home Secretary Amber Rudd in the House of Commons.
In December 2017, Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis announced that the blue passport would "return" after the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. The announcement led to controversy regarding the actual colour of the pre-1988 passport, with Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson calling the campaign "baffling" as she "always thought [the old passports] were black", and Channel 4 political journalist Michael Crick saying that "any witness would describe [the passport as black] in court".
British passports are burgundy, with the coat of arms of the United Kingdom emblazoned in the centre of the front cover.
With the sole exception of emergency passports, which are printed and issued by British diplomatic missions, all other types of British passports have been printed and issued by Her Majesty's Passport Office (HMPO) in the United Kingdom since May 2015. Some British Overseas Territories, such as Bermuda, did not start forwarding applications to HMPO until June 2016 when their own passport book stock was depleted.
There are three types of covers among British passports. Passports with the generic cover are issued to British citizens not residing in the Crown dependencies and Gibraltar, and persons holding all other types of British nationality. Passports issued to residents of the Crown dependencies and Gibraltar have a slightly variated cover. Passports issued to British Overseas Territories citizens residing in certain territories have a completely different cover, albeit with the same interior design.
The words "UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND" are inscribed above the coat of arms, whilst the word "PASSPORT" is inscribed below. The biometric passport symbol appears at the bottom of the front cover under the word "PASSPORT".
Until 30 March 2019 the words "EUROPEAN UNION" were printed at the top of British passports issued to British nationals who are considered "United Kingdom nationals for European Community purposes" (i.e. British Citizens, British Subjects with the right of abode in the UK and British Overseas Territories Citizens connected with Gibraltar). It is not included at the top of other British passports (i.e. passports issued to British Nationals (Overseas), British Overseas Citizens, British Protected Persons, non-Gibraltarian British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Subjects without the right of abode in the UK)
Generic British passports contain on their inside cover the following words in English only:
Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.
In older passports, more specific reference was made to "Her Britannic Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs", originally including the name of the incumbent.
British passports issued by HM Passport Office include the following data on the information page:
The items are identified by text in English and French (e.g., "Date of birth/Date de naissance"); there is a section in which all this text is translated into Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. Passports issued until March 2019 were translated into all official EU languages.
According to the UK government, the current policy of using titles on passports requires that the applicant provides evidence that the Lord Lyon has recognised a feudal barony, or the title is included in Burke's Peerage. If accepted (and if the applicant wishes to include the title), the correct form is for the applicant to include the territorial designation as part of their surname (Surname of territorial designation e.g. Smith of Inverglen). The Observation would then show the holder's full name, followed by their feudal title e.g. The holder is John Smith, Baron of Inverglen.
Besides the ordinary passports described above, special passports are issued to government officials from which diplomatic status may (diplomatic passport) or may not (official passport) be conferred by the text on the cover. A special passport is available for the Queen's Messenger. The latter passport contains the text QUEEN'S MESSENGER - COURRIER DIPLOMATIQUE below the coat of arms, and the text "BRITISH PASSPORT" above it.
British passports issued directly by the Crown dependencies as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar are slightly different from those issued by HMPO to residents of the United Kingdom and to British nationals abroad.
Passports for British citizens connected to the Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man do not carry the words "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" on the front cover. In their place, these passports feature the words BRITISH ISLANDS -- BAILIWICK OF JERSEY or BAILIWICK OF GUERNSEY or ISLE OF MAN, as appropriate.
Gibraltar passport covers are virtually identical to British passports issued by Her Majesty's Passport Office, except that they feature the word GIBRALTAR directly above the coat of arms and below the words "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."
In passports issued by the Crown dependencies, the passport note request is slightly different from those issued by the UK, coming from the Lieutenant Governor of the respective island. This difference results from the Crown dependencies owing allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II rather than the Government of the United Kingdom.
The issuing of a British Passport by the authorities in the Crown Dependencies cannot be inferred from the machine readable zone as the issuing country code and citizenship code (both GBR) is identical to passports issued by the United Kingdom for British Citizens.
Traditionally, British passports issued to BOTCs residing in certain British Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, St. Helena, and Turks & Caicos Islands) bear a different design, even when the HMPO assumed the responsibility of the manufacturing process of these passports in 2015.
Passports issued to BOTCs of those territories bear the words "BRITISH PASSPORT" above the royal coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth II and the name of the British Overseas Territory below it (e.g. "TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS"). The only exception is the design of Bermudian passports, which bears the wordings "GOVERNMENT OF BERMUDA" under the royal coat of arms.
The nationality reads "British Overseas Territories citizen" regardless of the residence of the bearer. Previously, in the machine-readable zone, the three-letter ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 code of the territory is given in the field of the code of issuing state, while GBD (British Overseas Territories citizens, formerly British Dependent Territories citizens) is shown in the nationality field. Either of these features enabled automatic distinction between BOTCs related to different territories. Ever since the HMPO assumed the responsibility of the issuance of BOTC passports in 2015, however, the code of issuing state is changed to GBD for all territories, thus making it impossible to identify the holder's domicile without the aid of other features, such as the passport cover.
Similar to passports issued to Crown dependencies and Gibraltar residents, the passport note request is made by the Governor of the British Overseas Territory on behalf of "Her Majesty's Secretary of State".
People who have valid reasons may be allowed to hold more than one passport booklet. This applies usually to people who travel frequently on business, and may need to have a passport booklet to travel on while the other is awaiting a visa for another country. Some Muslim-majority countries including Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen do not issue visas to visitors if their passports bear a stamp or visa issued by Israel, as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In that case, a person can apply for a second passport to avoid travel issues. Reasons and supporting documentation (such as a letter from an employer) must be provided.
In addition, a person who has dual British citizenship and British Overseas Territories citizenship are allowed to hold two British passports under different statuses at the same time. Persons who acquired their BOTC status with a connection to Gibraltar or Falkland Islands, however, are not eligible due to differences in regulations, and their BOTC passports will be cancelled when their British citizen passports are issued even when they possess both citizenships.
Certain British passports are issued with printed endorsements on the Official Observations page, usually in upper case (capital letters). They form part of the passport when it is issued, as distinct from immigration stamps subsequently entered in the visa pages. Some examples are:
"The Holder is also known as Cliff Richard"
Given names: "Kiefer W F D G R"
"The Holder is Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland"
There had been plans, under the Identity Cards Act 2006, to link passports to the Identity Cards scheme. However, in the Conservative - Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement that followed the 2010 General Election, the new government announced that they planned to scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity Register, and the next generation of biometric passports, as part of their measures 'to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.'
The Identity Cards Act 2006 would have required any person applying for a passport to have their details entered into a centralised computer database, the National Identity Register, part of the National Identity Scheme associated with identity cards and passports. Once registered, they would also have been obliged to update any change to their address and personal details. The identity card was expected to cost up to £60 (with £30 going to the Government, and the remainder charged as processing fees by the companies that would be collecting the fingerprints and photographs). In May 2005 the Government said that the cost for a combined identity card and passport would be £93 plus processing fees.
The next generation of biometric passports, which would have contained chips holding facial images and fingerprints, were to have been issued from 2012. Everyone applying for a passport from 2012 would have had their 10 fingerprints digitally scanned and stored on a database, although only two would have been recorded in the passport.
The Queen, Elizabeth II, does not have a passport because passports are issued in her name and on her authority, thus making it superfluous for her to hold one. All other members of the royal family, however, including the Queen's husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and their son, heir apparent Charles, Prince of Wales, do have passports.
Visa requirements for British citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of the United Kingdom. As of 26 March 2019, holders of regular British Citizen passports had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 185 countries and territories, ranking the British Citizen passport 5th in the world in terms of travel freedom (tied with Austrian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swiss passports) according to the Henley Passport Index. Additionally, Arton Capital's Passport Index ranked the British Citizen passport 3rd in the world in terms of travel freedom, with a visa-free score of 163 (tied with Austrian, Belgian, Canadian, Greek, Irish, Japanese, Portuguese and Swiss passports), as of 17 October 2018.
Visa requirements for other categories of British nationals, namely British Nationals (Overseas), British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens, British Protected Persons, and British Subjects, are different.
According to the Foreign travel advice provided by the British Government (unless otherwise noted) these are the numbers of British visitors to various countries per annum in 2015 (unless otherwise noted):
|Foreign travel statistics|
|Country||Number of visitors|
|American Samoa[note 2][failed verification]||119|
|Angola[note 3]||14,267/12,319 ?|
|Antigua and Barbuda[note 2]||70,701|
|Austria[note 5][note 4]||919,500|
|Barbados[note 5][note 4]||218,638|
|Belize[note 4][note 5]||13,342|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina[note 2]||12,715|
|Burkina Faso[note 4]||1,343|
|Cameroon[note 1][note 5]||16,008|
|Cape Verde[note 5]||126,685|
|Cayman Islands[note 2][note 8]||14,017|
|Cook Islands[note 2]||2,954|
|Costa Rica[note 2]||76,173|
|Czech Republic[note 5][note 2]||470,576|
|Dominican Republic[note 2]||177,534|
|Estonia[note 5][note 2]||58,402|
|Finland[note 5][note 7]||232,071|
|French Polynesia[note 2]||2,840|
|Hong Kong[note 2]||555,353|
|Hungary[note 5][note 4]||376,573|
|Latvia[note 5][note 2]||95,357|
|Luxembourg[note 4][note 5]||69,350|
|Macedonia[note 4][note 5]||8,856|
|Marshall Islands[note 2]||51|
|Mexico[note 2][note 8]||563,099|
|Montenegro[note 5][note 4]||37,464|
|New Caledonia[note 2]||708|
|New Zealand[note 2]||249,264|
|Papua New Guinea[note 4]||6,974|
|Saba[note 1][note 8]||200|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||17,045|
|São Tomé and Príncipe[note 13]||83|
|Serbia[note 7][note 5]||32,802|
|Sint Eustatius[note 1][note 8]||200|
|Slovakia[note 4][note 5]||77,837|
|Slovenia[note 2][note 5]||118,508|
|Solomon Islands[note 2]||496|
|South Korea[note 2]||126,024|
|Sri Lanka[note 2]||201,879|
|Timor-Leste[note 2][note 8]||1,253|
|Trinidad and Tobago[note 1]||37,473|
|Turks and Caicos||6,399|
|United Arab Emirates[note 2]||1,265,000|
|United States[note 2][note 14]||5,076,167|
Queen's Messenger passport
1920s United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland passport
1940 Colony of Aden passport
1949 Maltese passport
1949 New Zealand passport
1951 Singapore passport
1957 Federation of Malaya passport
1958 British Hong Kong passport
1959 Grenadian passport
British Guiana passport
What is an 'old blue' passport? This is a passport with a blue cover that was issued up until the early 1990s.